New research from NRDC has revealed the huge extent to which set top boxes (STBs) waste energy around homes, a significant problem given the increased amount of boxes that are deployed by more people in the connected home.

The survey shows that there are approximately 160 million set-top boxes installed in US homes—almost all of which are owned and installed by providers such as Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications, DISH Network, DirecTV, Verizon and AT&T—which operate at near full power at all times.

In what must be a wakeup call for the industry, and the economy in general, the study calculated that homes are spending $2 billion each year to power these boxes when they are not being actively used.

Digital video recorders (DVRs) were found to be open of the biggest offenders in energy wastage typically using around 40% more energy per year than their non-DVR counterparts.

NRDC advises that better designed pay-TV STBs could reduce the energy use of the installed base of boxes by 30–50% by 2020.

It believes that big opportunities exist in shifting to whole-home solutions that include a main box connected to the primary TV with either TVs specially designed to access the video content stored on the main box or low-power thin client boxes that serve the same function.

Furthermore, it suggests having the boxes automatically power down to much lower power levels when not in use such as in the middle of the night, or while users are at work.

On a service provider basis, NRDC urges the leading firms to accelerate deployment of new energy-efficient set-top boxes and make any needed changes in their “upstream” equipment to ensure the energy saving features are successfully utilised. It is encouraging service providers to shift to multi-room solutions that require only one main box and employ much lower power boxes (thin clients) to view content on other televisions in the home.